March madness prevailed at Halenbeck Hall, St. Cloud State University, for the New London-Spicer vs. Sauk Centre game. High-caliber girls basketball entertained the crowd. So did the very hard-fought nature of the game.
A lot was at stake. These GBB powers were fighting for the 6AA championship. With that championship comes advancement to state.
NL-Spicer has a dynasty reputation but hadn't been to state since 2009. Sauk Centre has taken on kingpin status in section. Something had to give on Friday, 3/14, at St. Cloud.
The throngs of fans were treated to an overtime affair. Who would wear the 6AA crown? It's New London-Spicer.
The Wildcats came out of the same sub-section as our MACA Tigers. Indeed, it would appear there isn't a huge talent gap between our Tigers and the Wildcats. MACA beat 'Waska handily in two regular season games. 'Waska went on to challenge New London-Spicer well enough to have the score tied in the second half. So. . .
Anyway, NL-Spicer is the team with the premier status now, at least within 6AA ranks. We'll see if they can climb further. Teams that make state don't necessarily roll over everyone. NL-Spicer, coached by Mike Dreier, is certainly proof of that. But just watch those Wildcats: they do what it takes to win, and now they're in state - who knows? - they might win their next game by 20 points!
Maybe MACA can climb into that position in the next few years. It's not that elusive.
Right now the Wildcats have 24 season wins and will strive for No. 25 tonight (Wednesday, 3/19). They'll play Esko at 8 p.m. at Mariucci Arena. Esko brings a 25-5 mark. The state semis will be Friday.
The Wildcats beat the Sauk Centre Streeters 84-81 in overtime Friday. Halenbeck was rocking with about 2000 fans on hand.
NL-Spicer star Taylor Thunstedt was a cog in the wheel. Another cog was the post tandem of Ashlyn Geister and Olivia Setterberg. Geister executed very smoothly close to the hoop. She was an astounding 11 of 12 in her shooting! Setterberg was smooth with her six of eight shooting stats.
Kabrie Weber, a freshman, was highly poised in the clutch. Kabrie sank three of four freethrows in the pivotal final minutes.
The Wildcats made just over 50 per cent of their shots, with every made field goal absolutely essential.
Sauk Centre has owned the section over the recent past, but this year they had to develop five new starters. Even with that challenge, they were a hair's breadth from keeping the 6AA crown. But it's the Wildcats and their fan throngs who have celebrated over the last few days. First they had to survive overtime.
Regulation ended with the score 74-74. Thunstedt was inclined to put up 3-pointers on this night. Her success was modest: five makes in a whopping 19 attempts. But she made two critical 3's in the last three minutes, giving her team a chance to win in OT.
Thunstedt is a North Dakota State University recruit. She scored a game-high 28 points Friday. She had a critical steal in the late-going.
Sauk Centre took the lead at 73-71 thanks to a '3' by Ali Peterson, her fifth of the night. The time remaining: 40 seconds. Thunstedt answered with her own bomb, so NL-Spicer now leads by one with 18 ticks of the clock left. Streeter Madison Moritz made a freethrow to get the score tied. Overtime!
Weber passed to Setterberg who made a jump shot. Julie Bushard of Sauk Centre made a field goal to tie the score. Wildcat Geister then scored from close-in to put NL-S up for good. Weber made two freethrows. Alyssa Fredrick scored to make the score 81-76 with 30 seconds left in overtime.
Thunstedt made a freethrow. Madison Moritz of Sauk hit a '3' to draw the Streeters within three at 82-79. Thunstedt got fouled and made two freethrows with five seconds left.
Finally the Wildcats could celebrate. Bring on state! It's NL-Spicer's 15th appearance at that elite level.
The resilient Thunstedt played the full 40 minutes. She noted post-game that the team's plan to emphasize post scoring worked. New London-Spicer had the advantage with height. Coach Dreier deployed all weapons.
There are six seniors on the NL-Spicer roster. Dreier said they have been envisioning state since fifth grade. Dreier has 816 career wins and has a legendary reputation. Morris fan Rick Lucken, RIP, used to wonder if he wore a toupee.
Sauk Centre had a fine campaign and finishes with 22 wins. They say goodbye to eight seniors. They came within a whisker of making state for the fifth straight year. Now let's see the MACA Tigers climb up to that status.
NL-Spicer led Sauk 38-33 at halftime. NL-Spicer had 23 total 3-point attempts and made eight. Thunstedt with her five 3-point makes was joined by the following teammates each with one: Brianna Fredrick, Reiley Ness and Alyssa Fredrick. Geister had the team-best ten rebounds. Thunstedt was tops in assists with eight, and she had three steals too.
Thunstedt with her 28 points was followed by Ashlyn Geister with 23 and Olivia Setterberg with 12. Kabrie Weber scored seven, Alyssa Fredrick six, Bri Fredrick three, Reiley Ness three and Megan Thorson two.
Both teams threw up 3-point attempts a lot. The Sauk total in attempts was 37 - wow! - and they made eleven. Ali Peterson was five of 17 in 3's. Alea Gerhartz and Madison Greenwaldt each made two 3's. Julie Bushard and Madison Moritz each made one.
Moritz collected eleven rebounds for Sauk and she led in assists too with five. Peterson had two steals. Bushard set the pace for Sauk's scoring with 25 points. Amanda Weir scored 19 and Ali Peterson 16. Alea Gerhartz put in seven points followed by Moritz and Greenwaldt each with six. Rebecca Weir added two points to the mix.
The teams were even in freethrow shooting. The NL-Spicer numbers: 12 of 19. Sauk's: 14 of 21.
The "big dance" of state gets going tonight! Viva New London-Spicer girls basketball! Their boys made state too.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - email@example.com